Body Language Mistakes that Can Ruin Your Job Interview

Body Language Mistakes that Can Ruin Your Job Interview

When trying to get employment, job seekers naturally devote a lot of attention to their resume and cover letter. That is a great strategy, but those are not the only things that need to be considered. An impressive resume and cover letter can get you an interview, but unfortunately your resume and references can be completely undermined by body language mistakes.

What are Body Language Mistakes?

Whenever we communicate with another person in person, we are always communicating on a number of levels. The most obvious level is the language we are using, such as the words we choose to use to convey what we want to say. However, whenever we speak there are almost always other forms of communication going on besides whatever words we are using. These are messages that are conveyed in addition to, and sometimes in contradiction of, the words we are speaking. Those messages are usually conveyed by how we use our bodies as we speak. That means everything from the expression on your face to how you hold and move your entire body. If your words say one thing, but your body says another, that is not good.

Common Body Language Mistakes

Fortunately, most inappropriate body language can be avoided if you are conscious of doing them in advance. Most body language mistakes are made without the person who is making the mistake even realizing that something is wrong. As a result, bad body language can create false negative impressions, making you seem dishonest, aggressive or nervous, when in fact those may be completely inaccurate impressions of who you really are. Here are three of the most common body language mistakes that can ruin a job interview and how to avoid making them:

Your Handshake

A handshake is such a simple thing, so easily done, and yet it can give the wrong impression. In our culture, people are expected to have a firm, dry grip when they shake hands. A handshake that is too loose is thought to be unenthusiastic, while a sweaty palm is interpreted as nervousness. An equally unimpressive handshake is one that is too firm and that squeezes the other person’s hand too tightly. This is usually interpreted as being pushy or aggressive. Practice with a friend until you master a medium pressure grip that conveys confidence.


“Sit up straight,” your parents and teachers always advised you. That is advice to follow at a job interview, where slouching is usually seen as being tired with low energy. Those are not traits valued by many employers. Always sit upright during your job interview with your hands on the armrests of the chair and with your feet planted firmly on the floor.

Nervous Movements

Some of the worst body language mistakes are made completely unconsciously. For example, many of us have simple actions we do primarily out of habit and boredom. These might be fooling with your hair, rubbing your hands, bouncing leg movements or other minor quirks that are often unnoticeable at first but which become annoying to others over time. If you are repeatedly engaging in some unconscious movements during your interview, it will eventually detract from where you want the interviewer’s attention to be, which is on what you are saying.

Being conscious of these body language mistakes is the best way to avoid them in interview. But don’t forget to take the steps you need to get to the interview in the first place, like writing a great resume and cover letter.